Brian Bosworth

updated 11/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

ON the football field, Brian Bosworth was the Boz—big, blond and bad. The Oklahoma Sooner linebacker with an earring, a Mohawk and an insufferable 'tude signed an $11 million, 10-year NFL contract with the Seattle Sea-hawks in 1987, only to be forced into retirement after 27 games because of degenerative arthritis in his shoulders.

"I had sacrificed my entire life to play football," says Bosworth, 29. "It's been a very humbling experience."

Many believed he had it coming. His arrogance alienated legions of football fans, and he won few friends after being kicked out of the '87 Orange Bowl when he tested positive for steroids. (Bosworth maintains the drugs were prescribed to help heal an injury.)

After leaving the NFL in 1989, Bosworth spent two years searching for a cure for his arthritis, only to realize that his unhappiness was poisoning his relationship with junior high sweetheart Katherine Nicastro, 29. But they weathered the pain of his wrecked career and overcame Katherine's fertility problems as well: In December 1991, daughter Alexa Chase was born. The couple celebrated her first birthday by getting married. Bosworth says that Alexa, their only child, has transformed his outlook: "I would have curled up in a corner and died without my little girl."

Now embarked on a movie career (his second action feature, North's War, recently began filming), Bosworth still dreams of the gridiron. Citing a recent CNN report about Swedish doctors developing injectable cartilage, he says, "I could fly over there and fill up like a car. I could be playing football again!"

From Our Partners